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Mamadou, the Senegalese migrant who overcame his fear of the sea to save a life on Costa del Sol beach

Mamadou, the Senegalese migrant who overcame his fear of the sea to save a life on Costa del Sol beach

BRAVERY ·

The 19-year-old, who is waiting for his asylum application to be processed by Spanish authorities, did not hesitate to go into the water and rescue a drowning man who was calling for help on the La Malagueta beach

Irene Quirante

Malaga

Tuesday, 21 February 2023, 14:13

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An act of humanity can break down walls and barriers of race and beliefs. This is the story of Mamadou, a 19-year-old man, from Senegal who despite his fear of the sea, came to the rescue of a bather who was drowning off the La Malagueta beach in Malaga. Mamadou realising that the man was in trouble and without thinking of his personal safety swam out to sea to rescue the stricken swimmer.

«I realised that something was happening because many people were looking at the water, as if worried; when I saw what was happening I knew I had to do something; in my heart, it was impossible not to help», explained Mamadou.

He remembers the faces of various friends and acquaintances who had all died at sea after entrusting their fate to a raft to seek a better life. «I didn't want the same thing to happen to the swimmer.»

Risked his life

It was February 2nd that Mamadou risked his life in the sea once again. Details are hazy, and he has no idea long it took him to rescue the man in distress. He does remember that by the time they both reached the shore, he felt completely exhausted and «cold to death.»

Once at the shore, he could see that the man was conscious, and that another man, believed to be a tourist, helped the continue the rescue. Mamadou required medical attention for hypothermia and was transferred in an ambulance to the Regional University Hospital.

Mamadou did not get a chance to speak to the person whose life he saved, although he would have liked to. He later learned that it was a 45-year-old Spanish man.

Within hours, he was discharged but returned to the hospital soon after to check that everything was in order. «I have a heart problem,» he explains. It was this heart condition that led him to decide to leave Senegal, where, he says, he had no chance of receiving treatment.

Survived a boat trip from Senegal

Mamadou grew up in Mbour, a coastal region about 80 kilometres from the capital, Dakar. He arrived in the Canary Islands when he was still 17 years old, surviving a boat trip that lasted ten days. He remembers that close to a hundred people travelled with him and that, in the middle of the immensity of the sea, out of nowhere, he came to the conviction several times that this could be the end of his life.

According to data from the Spanish Commission for Refugee Assistance (CEAR), 812 people died last year trying to reach the Spanish coast from parts of Africa. The Canary Islands route has become the main route of entry by sea to Spain, but is also one of the deadliest. More than 1,500 people lost their lives trying to arrive by boat from 2021 to October 2022.

Asylum application

Mamadou arrived in the Canary Islands the same year as the outbreak of the pandemic, and about eleven months ago he was transferred to Malaga. He wants to train and work in catering and imagines himself earning a living in a kitchen. Although, for the moment, these dreams are on hold, as his asylum application has not yet been resolved.

The Senegalese man has the support of CEAR, which has given him shelter in one of its housing resources, helps him with Spanish classes and assists him in the legal procedure to try to resolve the asylum application. Most importantly, he has the emotional support of CEAR, who is the closest thing to a family that the young man has in Malaga.

His life has been linked to the coast since he was a child. In his home country, he spent his days at the port, buying, and selling fish. Since he was a boy, he heard stories of neighbours who tried to migrate to Europe and were never heard from again. This is where his respect and fear for the sea grew, and despite everything, Mamadou did not hesitate to overcome his fear when he heard the cries for help at the La Malagueta beach.

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